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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is an organisation that is set up to inspire our farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world. We equip the industry with easy to use, practical know-how, which they can apply straight away to make better decisions and improve their performance. AHDB is a statutory levy board and is funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.


Grazed grass is the cheapest feed on most British dairy farms yet it is also the most poorly utilised. Whether grazed or fed silage, grass provides over half the dry matter intake of most dairy cows. This means small improvements in utilisation can have a major impact on production costs. Milk producers can have as much control over what their cows eat in the grazing season as they do when they are housed. This is what AHDB Dairy grass+ sets out to achieve.


AHDB Website - https://ahdb.org.uk/

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Grass & forage management

Grass is the most important, yet often overlooked, resource for livestock production. Well-managed grassland provides the most economic feed throughout the year, either as grazing or conserved forage.

As production costs continue to rise, there is no doubt that well-managed grazed grass has an increasingly important role in on-farm profitability for dairy producers.

Focusing on both growing and utilising more high-quality grazed grass will reduce dependence on purchased feed and in return improve farm net profit.
This page brings you the latest research and advice on grass, forage and soil management to help improve grassland productivity on livestock farms.

Learn more about GREATSoils

Download the Nutrient Management Guide (RB209)

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Recommended Grass and Clover Lists 2020/21

The Recommended Grass and Clover Lists for England and Wales are drawn up after rigorous testing for attributes such as yield, persistency, quality and disease resistance. The data come from trials carried out by the NIAB-TAG, Barenbrug, IBERS, DLF Seeds, DSV, AFBI and SRUC, and are evaluated by a panel of experts.


Knowing the performance characteristics of grass and clover is immensely useful for grassland producers. It allows appropriate selection of varieties that will perform well under a particular system. The Recommended Grass and Clover Lists for England and Wales are drawn up after rigorous testing for attributes such as yield, persistency, quality and disease resistance.

The data come from trials carried out by the NIAB-TAG, Barenbrug, IBERS, DLF Seeds, DSV, AFBI and SRUC, and are evaluated by a panel of experts. The scheme has changed – it is no longer partially funded by merchants, which means the data are available to all. The testing is funded by plant breeders through the British Society of Plant Breeders and the ruminant levy boards Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Hybu Cig Cymru.

There are three steps to making the best use of this booklet:

1. Is it on the list? – when looking at mixtures check that the varieties are listed in this booklet
2. Is it right for the job? – make sure the type of grasses or clovers listed in a mixture are fit for the purpose
3. Which varieties fit the job? – refinements can be made to mixtures in consultation with your merchant


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Making and feeding high-quality, digestible silage encourages higher feed intakes and better cow performance.

High-quality forage has a high nutritional value in terms of energy and protein and is also well preserved, making it highly palatable which supports high levels of forage intake.
There are then many management decisions to make, including when to cut, how to store and how to feed, and attention to detail at all stages of silage making is key to achieving high-quality silage.
Our silage resources are available here to help you produce sufficient quantity of silage at the appropriate time of year.



Thursday, November 17th, 2016

As the winter housing period approaches, now may be a good time to assess grass silage stocks and forage quality.
Leafy swards comprising of at least 70% ryegrass cultivars are key to an efficient silage system. The digestibility or ‘D value’ of silage is largely influenced by the growth stage at which the grass was cut and ensiled. Like most other plants, grass goes through a vegetative stage and then a reproductive stage, at which point lignin content increases. This lignin is indigestible to ruminants and can reduce the D value of grass silage significantly. Where seed heads are present within a silage sample, the D value will be below the target figure of 72. Research has also shown that crude protein, water soluble carbohydrate and metabolisable energy content decline as the grass matures (see Figure 1).


Grass silage should be tested in order to formulate and balance winter feed rations accordingly. AHDB Dairy recently published the ‘5 W’s and 1 H’ guide to getting a clamp silage sample:

Who: It is crucial that the person taking the silage sample follows a technique that allows a representative sample of the feed to be collected, and does so in a safe manner. Always ensure pit faces are stable and not likely to collapse.

What: Most forages can be analysed these days but you should check with the laboratory that will be doing the analysis.

Where: Samples can be collected by coring down through the clamp for one-off feed budgeting and mineral analysis. However, for more routine analysis, a sample should be collected by coring into the pit face.

When: Samples should only be collected after six to eight weeks, once fermentation has been completed. These can then be used to establish the requirements for purchased feed and also for assessing the mineral content of the silage. For routine diet formulation, samples should be collected on a monthly basis and on a weekly basis for regular DM testing.

Why: Regular analysis of silage samples allows more accurate formulation of the diet and ensures nutrients are not undersupplied or wasted. Equally, a one-off mineral analysis can highlight any potential issues that the stock being fed on the forage may face.

How: This is the most important aspect of the silage sampling process. Research in the USA demonstrated that a large component in the variation of the results of silage analysis was due to individual operator sampling technique.

When sampling the whole clamp:
  1. Using the sample probe, core down through the depth of silage, placing the sample from each core into a clean bucket as you progress through ‘W’ format
  2. Seal the holes with silage tape as you go along
  3. Once all cores are collected, mix the samples thoroughly with your hand
  4. Pour the sample out onto a clean surface and mix again
  5. Separate the sample into four and take small samples from each pile, placing them into a sealable bag. Avoid losing small particles by ensuring your hand is underneath the sample when transferring it to the bag. A sample of approximately 200g is required for analysis, but check with the laboratory
  6. Seal the bag, recording which clamp it came from and the date it was collected. You should also include what type of silage it is, e.g. first cut grass, maize, etc. and whether or not an additive was used
  7. Post the sample immediately. Ideally, samples should be sent at the start of the week to ensure analysis gets completed as quickly as possible.
AHDB Dairy has also developed a spreadsheet which can be used to calculate the amount of silage within a clamp. Email Bill.Reilly@ahdb.org.uk for a copy of the spreadsheet to calculate amount of silage in a clamp.

Together with Dr Dave Davies of Silage Solutions, AHDB Beef & Lamb is now investigating the factors that impact on the quality and subsequent loss of grass clamp silage on 22 farms throughout England. Background data for silage-making practices on each of the farms has been collected and farm visits are now taking place. The aim is to develop a Better Returns Programmes (BRP) plus document on efficient clamp grass silage production based on the findings from this project.

*Use an FAA accredited organisation for forage analysis -faagroup.co.uk/

More information can be found in the Better Returns Programme (BRP) manual Making Grass Silage for Better Returns.

Farmer summary: Clamp silage slippage

Key messages
  • This study found that the single most important factor affecting silage slippage was inconsistent consolidation within the silage clamp during filling. To overcome this, the silage-maker must:
    • Fill in layers of the same depth (>28% dry matter [DM] =15-cm thick layers, 25–28% DM = 20-cm thick layers and <25% DM = 25-cm thick layers)
    • Consolidate to the same extent for each and every load
    • Adjust chop length if the %DM of the incoming crop changes. It is good practice to monitor the %DM content during the harvest period for each cut of silage. A how-to guide to the quick hand squeeze method is highlighted in the AHDB publication Making grass silage for Better Returns
  • Consistent consolidation reduces variability in silage fermentation quality, thus reduces variation in CO2 and water production and reduces the risk of shifts in the silage mass. At lower %DM content, there is more undesirable fermentation than in higher %DM silages, meaning there is an increased risk of slippage if inconsistent consolidation has occurred
  • If the problem occurs every year, consider reducing the height of the silage ensiled within each silage clamp. This will lower downward pressure and reduce the risk of slippage
  • To reduce the risk of slippage, it remains important to continue following previous advice on increasing chop length for low DM silages to ensure the clamp is not filled too steeply

Clamp silage slippage occurs when the ensiled forage, usually grass, slips. The slip can occur within days of completing silage-harvest, at a later date while the clamp is still sealed and/or during feed-out when a good vertical, clean, feed-out face can therefore not be maintained. The portion of silage at the front of the clamp slips forward, often by a few metres, which leaves a gap further back in the silage mass. Often, the sheeting is stretched and/or torn, which allows air to enter and causes both secondary fermentation and aerobic spoilage.
This fermentation and spoilage causes reduced nutritive and hygienic quality of silage, increased silage DM losses and reduced palatability, therefore decreasing animals’ dry matter intake (DMI) of the grass silage. On many farms, the slipped silage will remain in place until feed-out past the slip zone. Efforts to fix the clamp face can cause a second slippage and this process is repeated until the entirety of the clamp has been fed.

Aims of the project

The aim of the project was to investigate whether farmers might benefit from new advice during harvesting, clamp filling and feed-out, which could reduce the risks of silage slippage.

Click here to download - 9110090_Clamp silage slippage summary report_FINAL PDF

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